Fastbreak: Florida Gators give away grand opportunity, fall to No. 15 Texas A&M 71-68

By Adam Silverstein
January 12, 2016

Unlike it’s road game last week, there was no questioning the effort given by Florida Gators basketball throughout Tuesday’s contest on the road against the No. 15 Texas A&M Aggies. In fact, the only thing to continue questioning about UF after the game is the team’s offensive execution, which continues to be a major issue for the program.

Florida (10-6, 2-2 SEC) continued its uneven play with a 71-68 defeat at the hands of Texas A&M (16-2, 4-0 SEC) in College Station, Texas, falling to 0-4 against ranked opponents and 0-5 against the best teams it has faced this season. breaks down Tuesday’s loss with seven quick-hitters:

It was over when: Gators sophomore point guard Chris Chiozza stole an inbounds pass with just seconds to play and missed a potentially game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer. Florida trailed by three for much of the final minute of the game, trading baskets for Texas A&M free throws before committing a costly turnover on its final possession. Redshirt sophomore center John Egbunu was called for a moving screen in the backcourt as the Gators planned to put together a more sound three-point play, turning the ball back over to the Aggies before Chiozza’s steal. Chiozza showed up with 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting with eight assists on the evening, while Egbunu struggled with eight points on 3-of-8 shooting with three turnovers and five fouls.

Free throw shooting reaches a new low: Florida did not shoot a free throw for the first 23 minutes of Tuesday’s game. When it got to the line, UF’s players started 0-for-4 from the stripe and finished 4-for-12 over the remainder of the game. As such, the Gators fell to 60.6 percent from the line on the season, which places them 339th out of 346 teams nationally. It is the worst Power Five conference team by two full percent and the only teams shooting at or worse the same percentage are Harvard, Bryant, Southeastern Louisiana, North Texas, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Main, Southeast Missouri State and Deleware State.

Significant stretch: Watching as Texas A&M pulled away with a 12-2 run to break apart a 47-all tie and jump ahead by 10 (as UF went scoreless for 5:19), Florida looked down in the dumps and ready to pack it in. Instead, the Gators took off with an 8-0 stretch of their own to pull within two with just over six minutes to play.

Oh hey, look who’s back: Redshirt senior forward Dorian Finney-Smith has put together an uneven season, but he showed up on Tuesday by hitting 6-of-9 shots, draining 4-of-6 threes and grabbing 12 boards for a double-double with a team-high 17 points. Finney-Smith did commit four fouls on the evening, but UF would’ve been nowhere without his efforts, including a three with 25.4 seconds left that cut the visitors’ deficit to a single point.

Paying dividends: Moving junior F Justin Leon into the starting five is doing a lot of good for Florida. Following up his tremendous performance against LSU, Leon was the Gators’ best player for the entire first half. He was forced to sit much of the final 20 minutes after picking up his third and fourth fouls early in the second half but still finished 7-for-8 from the field and 2-for-2 from three with 16 points on the evening.

Everything else: Redshirt freshman guard Brandone Francis-Ramirez banked in a wild three to end his shooting drought of 19-straight missed treys dating back to Nov. 25, 2015 … he bricked his next attempt off the glass and did not return to the court afterwards, leaving the game with his season shooting stats at 5-for-37 from beyond the arc … sophomore F Devin Robinson had a rough outing, going 1-for-5 from three and finishing with a -9 in just 16 minutes of action … Florida is now 7-1 in home games, 2-1 in neutral-site contests and 1-4 in true road games … the Gators are 0-4 against ranked opponents and 0-5 against the best teams they’ve faced this season … UF actually outshot TAMU from the field (.443-.361) and downtown (.385-.304) but made 16 fewer free throws on 18 fewer attempts … the Aggies scored 21 points off 16 Gators turnovers … Florida only led for 3:06 of the 40-minute contest

Up next: Florida will remain on the road to face Ole Miss on Saturday at 8 p.m. on ESPN2. The Rebels and head coach Andy Kennedy are Gators head coach Mike White‘s former team and boss.

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